Dick and Betty DeVos Making Real Difference on Many Fronts

Last year, U.S. Dept. of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. ChaoDeVos tapped Dick DeVos as one of seven new members of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). DeVos is serving a three-year term on the volunteer civilian panel which meets quarterly and provides oversight for all aviation activities in the nation.


Dick DeVos, the former president of Amway (1993-2002), is a long time pilot himself. Currently, he’s the CEO of The Windquest Group, a Grand Rapids-based holding company he started that runs a number of businesses, such as The Stow Company, Coppercraft Distillery and Boxed Water is Better. In the past, DeVos helped to form a coalition that persuaded Southwest Airlines to maintain and grow their presence at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids. Local residents and small businesses also benefited from lower fares as a result.


Along with is wife, Betty DeVos (the U.S. Secretary of Education), Dick Devos’ influence in Grand Rapids, in Michigan, and across the nation is impossible to ignore. Even beyond the Republican party, the couple’s influence on the business and education fronts, as well as their philanthropic contributions are making a real difference.


The DeVos are change makers who stand up for what they believe. Not wanting to make the same mistake as in 1991 when there was momentum to build a sports and convention arena north of the city of Grand Rapids, DeVos saw the potential impact on the downtown district and its future growth. Along with other business leaders, he was successful in lobbying against that facility. Later, Michigan State University’s medical school, DeVos Place Convention Center, the DeVos Performance Hall, the Grand Rapids City Market and the Van Andel Arena were all built downtown, maintaining the city’s center and halting suburban sprawl.


In 2006, Dick DeVos ran for Governor of the state of Michigan, losing to Democrat Jennifer Granholm, the incumbent.


In the education area, the couple has been influential, too. Dick DeVos launched an aviation charter high school at Grand Rapids International Airport. And, though controversial, he has supported tax-funded vouchers for students to attend private schools to give poor students the same opportunities to prosper as those born with more resources. Even though the voucher system was not approved by Michigan voters, the DeVos have advocated for a voucher system across the U.S. Due to their efforts, 24 states, pus D.C., now offer some type of private school voucher program.


For more than 25 years, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation has also donated $138.7 million to the arts, to health services, to churches and to education policy organizations. In 2006, their single largest contribution to date was giving $12.5 million for a children’s hospital in Grand Rapids named after Dick’s mother, Helen. Their initial donation spurred the full construction for the $103M Spectrum Health System medical complex. A dozen years later, the facility still enables families to remain at home while their sick children receive care, rather than having to travel to Chicago, Ann Arbor or the Mayo Clinic.


All in all, the DeVos actions speak louder than words and serve as a witness to their character and future business, political and philanthropic endeavors.


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